Seven Chiranjivi (Immortals) of Hindu mythology and their roles
In Hindu mythology, Chiranjeevi refers to seven immortals or eternal beings who are said to still exist, enduring throughout the cycles of time. Learn about these Seven Chiranjivi of Hindu mythology and their roles. These seven Chiranjeevi are:
Ashwathama was the son of Dronacharya, the teacher and commander-in-chief of the Kaurava army. He played a crucial role in the Mahabharata War, where he fought on the Kaurava side.
According to the Mahabharata, after the war concluded with the defeat of the Kauravas, Ashwathama used a powerful celestial weapon called the Brahmastra to take revenge. He directed this weapon towards the Pandava camp with the intention of killing the last remaining Pandava, Arjuna. However, Lord Krishna intervened and prevented the destruction of Arjuna. As a result, the Brahmastra found its mark in the womb of the pregnant Uttara, the wife of Abhimanyu, the son of Arjuna. This incident caused the near-extinction of the Pandava lineage.
As a punishment for this act, Ashwathama was cursed by Krishna and other sages to roam the earth as an immortal with a perpetual wound on his forehead. He was also cursed to carry the pain and suffering of the world. This is why he is considered one of the Chiranjeevi, a group of immortal beings in Hindu mythology.
In some variations of the story, it is said that Ashwathama will be relieved of his curse and attain salvation when he encounters the next avatar of Lord Vishnu, Kalki, who is expected to appear in the future. Ashwathama's character remains a complex and intriguing figure in Hindu mythology and the Mahabharata.
Mahabali, also known as Maveli, is a prominent figure in Hindu mythology and folklore, especially in the southern Indian state of Kerala. He is celebrated as a legendary and benevolent demon king who once ruled Kerala. The story of Mahabali is primarily associated with the festival of Onam, which is one of the most significant and beloved festivals in Kerala.
According to Hindu mythology, Mahabali was the grandson of Prahlada and belonged to the Asura (demon) clan. Despite his demon lineage, Mahabali was known for his virtues, benevolence, and just rule. Under his leadership, Kerala (then known as Mahabali's Kingdom) flourished, and the people lived in prosperity. His reign was characterized by equality, justice, and the absence of poverty.
Onam is a time of feasting, cultural performances, and elaborate flower decorations known as Pookalam. People come together to celebrate the return of their beloved king, Mahabali. The grand feast, known as the Onam Sadya, is a highlight of the festival, featuring a variety of traditional vegetarian dishes served on banana leaves.
The legend of Mahabali reflects the themes of humility, devotion, and the triumph of righteousness over power. Mahabali, a demon king, is revered for his virtuous rule and his unwavering devotion to God. The festival of Onam, with its rich cultural traditions, serves as a reminder of this benevolent king's legacy and the values he upheld. Mahabali's story continues to be an integral part of Kerala's cultural and religious heritage, and Onam is a time for people to come together in celebration and remembrance.
Vyasa is believed to have lived in ancient India, and his life is traditionally associated with the Dvapara Yuga, a period that came before the current age known as Kali Yuga. His birth is attributed to divine intervention. According to legend, he was born to the sage Parashara and a fisherwoman named Satyavati. The name "Vyasa" means "compiler" or "arranger" because of his role in organizing and classifying the Vedas.
Compilation of Vedas: Vyasa is credited with dividing the Vedas into four parts: Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda, and Atharvaveda. Each of these Vedas was further categorized into Samhitas (hymns), Brahmanas (rituals and ceremonies), Aranyakas (forest treatises), and Upanishads (philosophical and metaphysical teachings).
Composition of the Mahabharata: Vyasa is most renowned for composing the Mahabharata, one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India. The Mahabharata is a vast and complex epic that consists of over 100,000 shlokas (verses). It narrates the story of the Kurukshetra War, a great conflict between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, and includes a wealth of moral, ethical, and philosophical teachings. It also contains the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred dialogue between Lord Krishna and Prince Arjuna.
Composition of the Puranas: Vyasa is traditionally regarded as the compiler of the eighteen Puranas, which are a genre of ancient Indian texts that encompass mythology, cosmology, history, and religious teachings. These Puranas serve as important sources of Hindu mythology and religious knowledge.
Teaching and Disciples: Vyasa had several disciples, and he imparted his knowledge to them. One of his most famous disciples was Jaimini, who is known for his work on the Mimamsa school of philosophy.
4. Lord Hanuman
Lord Hanuman, also known as Anjaneya, is a revered figure in Hindu mythology and a prominent deity in the Hindu pantheon. He is widely worshiped for his unwavering devotion, strength, and loyalty to Lord Rama, and he is considered a symbol of courage, service, and devotion.
Lord Hanuman is the son of Anjana and Kesari, two divine beings who were granted a boon by Lord Shiva that their child would possess great strength, intelligence, and agility. Hanuman was born with these divine attributes and is often depicted as a monkey-faced deity.
Lord Hanuman's most well-known and significant role is in the Indian epic, the Ramayana. He played a central role in the search for Lord Rama's wife, Sita, who had been kidnapped by the demon king Ravana. Hanuman's extraordinary feats in the Ramayana include:
The Giant Leap: Hanuman famously leaped across the ocean from the southern tip of India to Sri Lanka to reach Lanka, where Sita was held captive. This incredible leap is a symbol of his boundless devotion and strength.
Burning of Lanka: Hanuman set fire to Lanka with his burning tail as a diversion to help Lord Rama and the Vanara army in their battle against Ravana's forces.
Carrying the Mountain: In one episode, Hanuman lifted and carried the entire Dronagiri Mountain, which was laden with healing herbs, to save Lord Lakshmana's life after he was wounded in battle.
Devotion to Lord Rama: Hanuman's unwavering devotion to Lord Rama is a central theme in the Ramayana. He considered Rama as his divine master and served him with absolute loyalty and selflessness.
Lord Hanuman is revered for his qualities of devotion, loyalty, and selfless service. He is also considered a symbol of strength, courage, and protection. His image, often depicted with a mace (gada) and a mountain in one hand, symbolizes his power and unwavering determination. Hanuman is widely worshipped across India and by the Indian diaspora. His devotees seek his blessings for courage, protection, and the removal of obstacles.
Vibhishana was a member of the demon (Asura) clan and the brother of the demon king Ravana, who ruled the island of Lanka (modern-day Sri Lanka). Unlike his brother Ravana, Vibhishana was known for his virtuous character and devotion to Lord Vishnu.
Vibhishana's significant role in the Ramayana can be summarized as follows:
Defection to Lord Rama: Vibhishana's internal conflict arose from his disagreement with Ravana's actions, including the abduction of Sita, Lord Rama's wife. Vibhishana believed in dharma (righteousness) and could not support his brother's unjust actions. Despite the risks, he chose to defect from Ravana's side and seek refuge with Lord Rama, who was on a mission to rescue Sita.
Lanka in the Service of Rama: Lord Rama, recognizing Vibhishana's integrity and good intentions, welcomed him into his camp. Vibhishana became an advisor and ally to Lord Rama. His insights and knowledge of Lanka's defenses were crucial in the battle that followed.
Coronation as King of Lanka: After Lord Rama's successful war against Ravana and the rescue of Sita, Vibhishana was crowned as the king of Lanka. Lord Rama, recognizing his leadership qualities and virtuous nature, bestowed this honor upon him.
Continued Devotion: Vibhishana remained a devout devotee of Lord Rama even after becoming king. He held Lord Rama in the highest regard and sought his guidance in ruling Lanka justly.
Vibhishana's unwavering devotion to Lord Rama and his willingness to choose the path of righteousness has made him a revered figure in Hindu mythology. His story is often cited as an example of the importance of dharma and devotion to God.
In Hindu religious and cultural traditions, Vibhishana is remembered and revered for his virtuous character, and his story is often retold as a lesson in morality and devotion. His association with Lord Rama and the Ramayana is a testament to his role as a symbol of righteousness and the triumph of good over evil.
Kripacharya, also known simply as Kripa, was the son of the sage Saradwat and Janapadi. He was born with divine qualities and was known for his expertise in martial arts and archery. Kripacharya was trained by his father and became a skilled warrior and a respected teacher.
Roles and Contributions in the Mahabharata:
Tutor to the Kuru Princes: Kripacharya served as the teacher (guru) to the Kuru princes, including Duryodhana and Yudhishthira, from their early childhood. He imparted his knowledge of archery and warfare to the princes, making him an important figure in their upbringing.
Participation in the Kurukshetra War: During the Kurukshetra War, Kripacharya fought on the side of the Kauravas, led by Duryodhana. He displayed his valor in battle and was considered one of the most formidable warriors in the Kaurava army. His role in the war was significant, and he was known for his unswerving loyalty to his students, even when he disagreed with their actions.
Dhritarashtra's Advisor: Kripacharya also served as an advisor to King Dhritarashtra, the blind king of the Kuru dynasty. He provided counsel to the king, especially during critical moments in the Mahabharata.
Dronacharya's Brother: Kripacharya was the half-brother of Dronacharya, who was the teacher of both the Pandavas and the Kauravas. Their combined expertise and guidance made them influential figures in the epic.
Kripacharya's character in the Mahabharata is marked by moral dilemmas. While he was loyal to the Kauravas, he often disagreed with their unjust actions, particularly during the gambling match and the disrobing of Draupadi. However, his loyalty to his students and the Kaurava cause led him to participate in the Kurukshetra War against the Pandavas.
Parashurama was born as the son of the sage Jamadagni and his wife Renuka. He belonged to the Brahmin (priestly) caste and was known for his unwavering devotion to Lord Shiva. His name "Parashurama" is derived from the Sanskrit words "Parashu," which means axe, and "Rama," referring to Lord Rama or Lord Vishnu. It signifies his association with the axe, which was both his weapon and a symbol of his warrior identity.
Parashurama is best known for his martial prowess and his lifelong mission to rid the world of corrupt and oppressive Kshatriya (warrior) rulers. His notable actions and achievements include:
Destruction of Kartavirya Arjuna: Parashurama avenged the death of his father, Sage Jamadagni, by slaying the powerful and arrogant Kshatriya king Kartavirya Arjuna. This act marked the beginning of his campaign against corrupt Kshatriya rulers.
Conquest of Kshatriya Dominance: Parashurama embarked on a mission to eliminate Kshatriya rulers who had become tyrannical and oppressive. He is said to have defeated and overthrown numerous kings in this pursuit.
Donation of Land: Parashurama is also credited with donating the lands he conquered to Brahmins, thereby contributing to the reestablishment of dharma (righteousness) and the well-being of the Brahmin community.
Guru of Bhishma: Parashurama was a teacher to Bhishma, a central character in the Mahabharata. He imparted martial and spiritual knowledge to Bhishma, who later became a prominent figure in the Mahabharata.
Parashurama is celebrated for his unwavering commitment to upholding dharma and for his role as a warrior-sage. He is revered as a symbol of the warrior's duty, devotion to God, and the pursuit of righteousness. His story continues to be a source of inspiration and moral guidance in Hindu culture and mythology. Parashurama's teachings and the stories of his exploits are a testament to the timeless values of virtue, justice, and the preservation of dharma in Hinduism.